Ad Networks Ordered To Stop Working With Alleged Piracy Site
A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction ordering ad networks Chitika and Clicksor.com to stop placing ads with the site Pharmatext.org based on allegations that the site infringes copyright by offering pirated e-books. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns in Boston also ordered eNom's Whois Privacy Protection Service to disable Pharmatext.org and to disclose to the publishers any information about Pharmatext.org that could reveal the owner's identity.
The injunction was issued at the request of publishers Elsevier and John Wiley & Sons, who allege in a copyright infringement lawsuit against the domain registrar and ad networks that they are contributing to copyright infringement by Pharmatext.org. The publishers have not yet sued Pharmatext itself, which allegedly offered free copies of e-books like "Development and Validation of Analytical Methods" and "Wiley Guide To Chemical Incompatibilities."
While many content owners have sued sites that offer infringing material, it's relatively rare for a copyright holder to sue an ad network for allegedly contributing to infringement by placing ads on piracy sites.
But at least one other similar lawsuit was filed recently: In August, Warner Bros. and Disney sued Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Triton Media (unrelated to Triton Digital Media LLC in Sherman Oaks, Calif.) for allegedly enabling infringement by placing ads on sites with infringing clips. But in that case, Triton allegedly is owned and operated by the same person who also allegedly operates a site that offers pirated video.
Triton agreed to pay $400,000 to settle that lawsuit last October.
Whether ad networks like Chitika and Clicksor can be held liable by providing ads to sites with infringing material appears to be an open question. But Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University, says that the allegations in this case by Elsevier and Wiley don't appear sufficient to prove that the networks contributed to infringement. "The standard test for contributory liability is knowledge of infringing activity and material contribution to infringing acts," Goldman says. He adds that merely supplying ads to a site doesn't appear to materially contribute to the site's acts of infringement.